Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Bad Interviews Happen To Good Teachers

Well, at least you can say I'm consistent. Year after year, when that summer break comes-- relaxation time for most teachers, resume update and scour EdJoin time for me-- I have played my part faithfully, never breaking from tradition. And this summer, like the four summers before, followed the familiar formula: letter of introduction, interview prep, tie and sock choice, nervous babbling, thanks for inviting me handshake, phone call wait, the sigh of resignation....

Now to be fair to myself (aka "rationalizing") it wasn't the best fit. I'm sure the first interviewer caught the look on my face when she said "Sixth grade Math and Science"-- I'm sure the same face I made when my new bride first made dinner, a well-intentioned yet feeble attempt to convey, despite facial contortions saying otherwise, my inner "joy" at what was placed before me and the anticipation of getting to enjoy it for the next 50 years* -- but I recovered quickly, and while admitting my passion was readin' and writin' I talked about the thrill of discovery and importance of problem solving as keys to both wonderful disciplines, math and science being the backbone of any successful society.

And maybe that last paragraph is evidence of my Failure As Interviewee. A bit rambling, I'd say. Incoherent in most places, you may say. It's not like I opened with a joke ("How many Principals does it take...") or replied in monotonous grunts, but for some reason I must not come across as intelligent, or at least worthy to get paid for teaching children, when I am interviewed. There is a fine line between answering how I really want to and how I think they want me to answer, all while trying to surreptitiously read upside down to see what they're writing about me as I talk. I want to say Yes, my classroom will have/do this... but how do I know if the school allows that? Maybe the Principal wouldn't know a Tweet if it bit her but I want to connect with my students using Twitter?

Part of me wants to jump up on the next conference table and give voice to the Sorkin-style proclamation within: I can teach! Give me a room, give me students! Let me coax them, cajole them, encourage them to let the learning spark in them burst! Quit blaming faulty technology and get students into the 21st century, stop moaning about class size and get to know what every student needs to learn, cancel the parties and movies and demand hard work, proof of learning, and excellent results! I AM Superman! And then again part of me, mainly the student loan repaying part, wants to say Please, I need a job, tell me what to teach and how to teach it and I'll be there for every after school function and I'll spend all weekend grading and planning but please just give me a chance...

So now I (hopefully) go back to teaching elementary P.E., a job I absolutely love at a school I absolutely love with students I absolutely love, by the way, and spend the next 11 months learning as much as I can in order to try again next summer. I'll finish my GATE Certification, complete my P.E. Credential, keep working through the Stanford Math MOOC, discuss students and teaching during lunch break, slip $20 a week under the Principal's keyboard, and work towards another chance at interviewing for my own classroom next year.  I'll firm up my handshake, practice my interview answers, study successful educators and their best practices. I'll find a way to impress the entire room on my next interview, I'll have them presenting the staff restroom key and offering to drive me down to HR and sign that contract before my sweat has even dried.

Truthfully? I think it was the wrong tie.

*Yes, 17 years later, she is a fine cook these days. Delicious pastas, awesome tacos. Otherwise we wouldn't still be married, now would we?**